Now for another instalment of the highly anticipated Social Innovation Officer series. What? You haven’t heard about it? Well get with the times and check out the first instalment. Let’s talk about SIFE, and the difference between a social action project and a social enterprise.
I like to think most people that know me, know SIFE. I could talk about it until I’m blue in the face, which incidentally would be very on brand. For those of you that read the blog but haven’t met me, SIFE is a global organisation with the mission of “to bring together the top leaders of today and tomorrow to create a better, more sustainable world through the positive power of business.”
Here’s some fun SIFE Facts taken from 8/31/11:
- Country Operations: 39
- Active Teams: 1,600
- Active Students: 57,000
- Team Community Projects: 6,500
- Student Volunteer Hours: 5,700,000
- SIFE Worldwide Revenue: $12,800,000
One of those active countries is SIFE UK, with one of the active teams being SIFE Sheffield, and I am one of those active students that in the last two years has worked with and on around 15 team community projects. I can’t even begin to count the amount of volunteering hours I have put in and to be honest I’m not sure I want to, as I’m sure the number will be tragically high.
SIFE really was the beginning of what I guess is my career in social enterprise, though I know now that they are social action projects not necessarily a social enterprise. This is because the projects run by SIFE teams can be short, medium or long term and don’t necessarily have to generate a reinvestment surplus. SIFE teams use commercial activities normally; selling products, fund-raising and offering consultancy to maintain their social project portfolio.
Sheffield SIFE is a little different from most other SIFE teams in that we are a Company Limited by Guarantee, making us more of a social enterprise, but our actual activity which is running projects, effectively are all the startings of social enterprises, but with it being a student led organisation, the “employees” of the company will move on after three years.
This means that projects need an exit strategy of some sort. This is normally that early beneficiaries will continue to run the business. For example, the Homemade model aimed to have previously homeless individuals taking over the running of the workshops. This would allow the students to withdraw but the knowledge transfer to maintain.
Social action projects are often the start of many social enterprises, these are the feasibility stage of many social enterprises to make sure that the programme effectively engages with their beneficiaries and that their commercial activities can generate sufficient sustainability. Sheffield SIFE really did give me the foundation to develop my skills, awareness and ultimately my passions. So, if your looking for a society to join this year that will inspire, challenge and develop you then I would definitely recommend it. If you already have a desire to make a difference with your own idea, then keep your eye on our Social Innovation Lab because registration opens soon and this is the perfect place to foster and grow your social enterprise ideas.